A local government spending watchdog has raised concern about the cost of “significant levels” of overtime being worked by staff at Limerick City and County Council which amounted to almost €4.5m in 2020.
A review of payroll costs at the council by the Local Government Audit Service (LGAS) found 80 employees earned over €20,000 each for the year in overtime.
Overall, a total of 443 council staff — about one in three employees — were paid a total of €4.45m in overtime in 2020.
It represents an average payment among staff in receipt of overtime of €10,045 for the year.
A similar recent report by the LGAS also expressed concern at the level of overtime and allowances paid to staff of Cork City Council, where 247 workers — about one in six — received in excess of €20,000 in overtime and allowances in 2020. A total of 994 staff in Cork City Council were paid €11.87m in overtime and allowances for the year — an average annual sum of almost €12,000.
Commenting on overtime payments by Limerick City and County Council, LGAS said there was no approved overtime policy in place at the local authority.
The audit also identified instances of non-compliance with the EU Working Time Directive, which limits staff generally to working a maximum of 48 hours per week.
The LGAS found there was an absence of documented monitoring procedures in place for overtime worked by council staff.
In particular cases, it found local arrangements were being used to calculate overtime rates to be paid for personnel working for the fire brigade.
The spending watchdog called on Limerick City and County Council to set out a specific timeframe for carrying out a review of its overtime costs. It said the council needs to implement an action plan and formalise an approved overtime policy.
The council’s chief executive, Pat Daly, said a new overtime circular was issued last July for staff up to administration officer grade, while a separate guidance document in relation to outdoor grades was issued the following month.
Dr Daly said a new overtime policy was being drafted by the council.
The chief executive said the issue of non-compliance with working hours had resulted in a training seminar being organised for senior staff last November.
In reply to the lack of documented monitoring of overtime, Dr Daly said all overtime had to be approved by the relevant line manager.
Dr Daly said he was aware the issue was regularly addressed by senior engineers and their staff but stressed that formal procedural requirements for the management of overtime would be addressed as part of the new policy on overtime.